David Lee Nelson, formerly of Hilton Head Island, SC, and Fond du Lac, WI, passed away on June 29, 2022, at the age of 83. David was born in Minot, ND, on September 21, 1938, son of Maurice Lind Nelson and Edna Margereta Erickson Nelson. With his parents and sister Linda, he spent his childhood in Scobey, MT, and then in Detroit, MI, where he finished elementary and high school, graduating from Pershing High School in 1956.
He loved his three years at the University of Michigan, where he was active in a fraternity, was an avid sports fan, sang in the chorus, and washed dishes to help pay his way. Within three years he completed his pre-medical school requirements while studying his first love, history, and went on to medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, in 1959.
It was there that friends “fixed him up” with the woman who became his wife and companion for 59 years, Janine Renaud Nelson. They married the evening of David’s medical school graduation in June 1963. David’s best man was married the following evening, and the same five cash-strapped medical grads were in both weddings, allowing each to pay only one tuxedo rental fee!
David completed his five-year residency in general surgery at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and went on to serve in the U.S. Army through the Berry Plan in both Korea and Kansas. After settling in Fond du Lac, WI, in 1970 with his growing family, he began his practice in a multi-specialty clinic before becoming a solo practitioner. In retirement, he returned to college and completed his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Carroll University at the age of 62. Seeking a warmer climate, David and Janine moved to Hilton Head Island in 2001.
In addition to his medical practice, David kept busy with running, music, reading, sports, bridge and traveling. He completed ten marathons and more runs with his three children, sang in many choirs, and enjoyed pick-up basketball, skiing, tennis, biking and, later in Hilton Head, kayaking. A life-long dog-lover, David spent countless hours walking and running with his dogs, prompting two friends to say that if they were to be reincarnated, they would come back as David’s dog.
Both in Wisconsin and South Carolina, David was dedicated to giving back to his community. He volunteered with many organizations, serving as Council President at Pilgrim United Church of Christ, on the Fond du Lac Board of Education and the YMCA Board, and in the Rotary Club, being given the Rotary Paul Harris Award for community service. In Hilton Head he worked at the Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Clinic, built homes with Habitat for Humanity, and was an active member of First Presbyterian Church.
David was very devoted to his family. He was highly supportive of their educational endeavors and loved attending their music and sports activities. He leaves behind his wife, Janine; his daughter, Lynn Nelson and her husband, Torben Nielsen and two grandsons, Esben and Anders; his son, Eric Nelson and three granddaughters, Alexandra, Lindsey and Pamela; and his son, Paul Nelson and his husband, Ty Dowell; his sister Linda Collins; and nieces Janice Collins and her family, Leslie Collins, and Karen Grady and her husband Jeff Grady and their children. He is preceded in death by his parents.
In David’s final years, he and Janine deeply appreciated the love and support of his extended family and many friends in Hilton Head and from around the country.
David’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 30, 2022, at 2:00 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church in Hilton Head, SC. In lieu of flowers, if you choose, donations can be made to Volunteers in Medicine Clinic (VIM) Hilton Head Island or to the Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity.